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Small Conference Report

   by Ben Burns - 09/08/2009


Who impressed?

Colorado State: Bettors would be wise to take notice of Rams’ coach Steve Fairchild. He’s a rising star, and it showed against rival Colorado Sunday.

Colorado State’s offense, featuring the most experienced offensive line in the nation, was balanced (208 passing, 168 rushing) and was a step ahead of the Buffalo defense throughout the first half.

The Rams’ defense shut down what is expected to be a good Buffalo rushing attack. Colorado averaged just 1.4 yards per carry and finished with 29 yards rushing.

Dating back to last November, the Rams are 6-1 ATS.

CSU gets basically a week off by hosting Weber State on Saturday. The Rams then host Nevada before heading into the MWC play.

Buffalo: The buzz surrounding the Bulls quieted significantly after star running back James Starks was lost for the season during preseason practice. But the defending MAC champs keep finding ways to win games for coach Turner Gill.

Buffalo won at UTEP Saturday as a 12-point underdog.

The Miners, with senior quarterback Trevor Vittatoe back, were picked as one of the favorites in Conference USA, while the Bulls were expected to take a step back from last season’s bowl season.

That doesn’t appear to be the case.

Like solid, well-coached teams do, Buffalo took advantage of several of UTEP’s mistakes. Running backs Brandon Thermilus and Mario Henry combined to rushed for 134 yards, and first-year starting quarterback Zach Maynard looked poised, completing 12 of 19 passes for 159 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

Buffalo opened as an 11-point home underdog for Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh.

BYU’s defense: Don’t overlook the fact that Cougars held Oklahoma’s offense to just seven points before Sam Bradford’s injury.

The BYU front often pressured Bradford without the aid of additional blitzers, although it was linebacker Coleby Clawson, who delivered the knockout blow to the Heisman trophy winner.

The Cougars took advantage of the Sooners’ new offensive line and shut down their running game. Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma’s pair of 1,000-yard rushers, combined for just 117 yards.

BYU needs to be careful this week. With a big home game against Florida State next week, it would be easy to overlook Saturday’s game at Tulane, although it might not matter. The Cougars opened as 17.5-point favorites over the Green Wave.

Who looked awful?

Miami (OH): The RedHawks were blasted 42-0 by what is not expected to be a great Kentucky team, even by the Wildcats’ modest standards.

But Rich Brooks’ unproven squad certainly looked great against the RedHawks.

In new coach Michael Haywood’s first game, Miami managed just 188 total yards, went 2 of 15 on third downs and turned it over twice.

The defense was shredded through the air and on the ground. Kentucky rushed for 245 yards and passed for 243.

The defeat was the worst season-opening loss for the RedHawks since 1931 and prompted Haywood to already shake up his starting lineup, which featured four freshmen against Kentucky.

Now, Miami heads to the blue turf of Boise State as 36-point underdogs.

Troy: The Trojans allowed Bowling Green to score 31 unanswered points in Thursday’s opening loss.

Entering the game as a seven-point favorite, Troy was supposed to show that it was the class of the Sun Belt. But it had no answer for new Falcon coach Dave Clawson’s passing attack, which looked impressive racking up 339 yards through the air.

Along with a pass defense, Troy also needs to find some balance on offense, after rushing for only 41 yards on 21 carries against Bowling Green. Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan was the leading rusher with 30 yards.

Things don’t get any easier for the Trojans, who are 37-point underdogs at No. 1 Florida Saturday.

Nevada: For a WAC team opening the season in South Bend, Nevada received some respect from odds makers, who posted them as 14-point underdogs. Other than Boise State, every other WAC team is getting at least 20-plus in that situation against the Irish.

But that respect didn’t prove to be worth much for the Wolf Pack, who were blasted 35-0 by Jimmy Clausen and Notre Dame.

With 10 returning offensive starters, it seemed likely the Irish would be put up some points. But it was way too easy. Clausen was not sacked and was knocked down less than four times.

Meanwhile, the Wolf Pack’s potent offense had trouble staying on the field. Nevada was 2-11 on third downs. Notre Dame owned more than a seven-minute advantage in time of possession.

The Wolf Pack also turned it over three times.

Nevada has a week off, before continuing its tough opening stretch at Colorado State next Saturday and returning home to host Missouri.

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